On Monday, 29 July 2019, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop titled as “Drugs Shortage Crisis in Gaza Strip” in its head office in Gaza City. The workshop discussed the drugs shortage crisis and its impact on patients’ health; and offered recommendations that would guarantee each patient’s right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable health services, including the periodic and constant supply of essential medications and drugs.
Khalil Shahin, Director of PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, opened the workshop by emphasizing that it comes as part of PCHR’s follow-up of the status of economic and social rights in the Gaza Strip, and its interventions with local and international health organizations to help patients access their treatment.
Shahin added that the workshop sheds light on the crisis, which the Gaza Strip residents suffer from due to the political division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; most significantly, the serious shortage of many drug items needed for chronic and serious diseases. Shahin hereby called for keeping the basic services, particularly healthcare, away from the political bickering.
Dr. Munir al-Borsh, Director General of Pharmacies in the Ministry of Health, reviewed the medical reality in the Gaza Strip, and the joint efforts of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and international health institutions to compile 9 lists of basic drugs and medical consumables covering 13 hospitals and 54 health care centres.
He added that drugs and medical consumables crisis in the Gaza Strip is due to MOH – Ramallah’s disregard for their responsibilities to supply drugs to the Gaza Strip, noting that Gaza’s share is around 40% of the total percentage of drugs and medical consumables of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). In 2019, MOH only supplied 3% of the annual needs (drugs supplied to the Gaza Strip estimated at 10 million USD; medical consumables estimated at 2 million USD). Al-Borsh pointed out that the categories at zero stock are: 48% for drugs, 24% for medical consumables, including primary care (65%), cancer and blood disorders (56%), immunity disorders and epidemics (72%), dialysis (55%), mental health and neurosurgery (40%), and women and child’s health (71%).
In his speech, Dr. ‘Aid Yaghi, Director of Medical Relief Society in Gaza, stressed that the right to health is a natural and fundamental right for all patients and should be guaranteed by the PNA by securing the regular supply of drugs and medical consumables to the Strip’s hospital, in addition to adequate financial resources to allocated towards health sector. He also called for neutralizing the health sector from political rivalries and finding appropriate mechanisms to ensure transparency of spending on the health sector of the PA budget in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Dr. Abdul Nasser Sobh, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Sector Coordinator, discussed WHO supervisory role over health services, including the import of drugs, medical disposables and supplies to Gaza Strip hospitals. In his statement, Dr. Sobh declared that the private health sector’s contribution towards the crisis is much greater than the government’s, as it supplied 15 million USD of the 24.5 million USD 2018 total expenses in the oPt, compared to 9 million USD from the MOH – Ramallah and 0.5 million USD by MOH – Gaza. He also asserted that the primary cause for the drugs crisis in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian political division, which does not excuse either party of their responsibility towards patients, pointing out that WHO is currently filling in the gaps until both parties in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reach a political solution.
The workshop opened the door for a wider discussion on the crisis and its repercussions on Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip, and reached the following recommendations:
- The Palestinian government and MOH – Ramallah shall immediately supply all drugs and medical disposables necessary for health facilities in the Gaza Strip to mitigate further health risks. The government should also ensure the right to health for every person, including providing the highest attainable physical and mental health services; and
- Call upon all relevant authorities to omit all obstacles to ensure unrestricted and continuous supply of drugs and medical disposables for health facilities in the Gaza Strip; and
- Remind Israeli authorities of their legal obligations towards the population of the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly guaranteeing free and safe supply of drugs and food; and ensuring its availability in case of inadequate local resources of the occupied territory according to the rules of the international humanitarian law.